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Women in the beer industry find community with Pink Boots Society

Haley Keller, co-owner of Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard (Photo by Rachel Belle)

Seattle is most definitely a beer city. It’s the reason Jen Nicosia moved here from Chicago.

“I did, in 2014 to brew beer and get into the scene. The water here was good, the hops are obviously here, a lot of grain is soured here.”

Nicosia is a brewer and a beertender at Lowercase Brewing in south Seattle. She’s also a member of the Seattle chapter of the Pink Boots Society, a network of women who work in the beer industry.

“I really wanted to get connected with women in the beer business,” said Haley Keller, co-owner of Ballard’s Peddler Brewing Company. “There are women in the beer business but there are definitely more men than women.”

Keller is responsible for starting a Pink Boots Society chapter in Seattle.

“Our back of house and operations staff, I’m the only female,” Keller said. “So I’m surrounded by guys all day, which is wonderful! But it would be nice to have women, as well, in my life, especially professionally. I think there is just a culture of sharing that is more present with women than with men, sometimes. Maybe feeling intimidated to talk to guys about [the industry]. There seems to be a lot of the old men who have been in the business a long time, are really good friends and chatting it up. But to break into that might be a little bit hard.”

Keller says about 50 women show up to each quarterly Pink Boots Society meeting, and there’s an always an educational aspect.

“Various speakers who are women in the beer industry. The most recent one, we had a lady from a malting company come and talk about their process of malting. We had someone talk about how hops are grown, how you order them. Then we had a lady who works in marketing for beer. So we try to do things that professionally help us but also grow our knowledge in beer and the beer industry.”

Sibyl Perkins, a home brewer, does web and graphic design for craft breweries and tries to direct her clients away from marketing specifically to men.

“The big beer companies, all of their marketing and advertising is very much male directed, fairly sexist, and tends to perpetuate the stereotype that men are the ones who like beer; women like wine and coolers and things like that,” Perkins said. “I think there has been a lot of conscious effort within the craft beer industry to kind of dispel that, because there are so many women, especially young women, who are beer aficionados. I think the marketing and advertising side of things is more gender neutral than the big beer companies are.”

How did beer become such a male dominated industry? Nicosia has her theory:

“During the industrial revolution it was a big thing for working men to gather and drink beer at the end of their work day. Women weren’t necessarily going out to bars, they were definitely at home more. I think that might be where it spun off. You have your grandpa who used to brew beer in the garage and he taught his son and his son’s son. It kind of perpetuates from there.”

Pink Boots Society also provides scholarships to women in the beer industry, so they can take classes, travel to places like Germany to study beer brewing or maybe even become a cicerone.

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